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PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e27642. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0027642. Epub 2011 Nov 14.

Testing Hardy-Weinberg proportions in a frequency-matched case-control genetic association study.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, United States of America.


In case-control genetic association studies, cases are subjects with the disease and controls are subjects without the disease. At the time of case-control data collection, information about secondary phenotypes is also collected. In addition to studies of primary diseases, there has been some interest in studying genetic variants associated with secondary phenotypes. In genetic association studies, the deviation from Hardy-Weinberg proportion (HWP) of each genetic marker is assessed as an initial quality check to identify questionable genotypes. Generally, HWP tests are performed based on the controls for the primary disease or secondary phenotype. However, when the disease or phenotype of interest is common, the controls do not represent the general population. Therefore, using only controls for testing HWP can result in a highly inflated type I error rate for the disease- and/or phenotype-associated variants. Recently, two approaches, the likelihood ratio test (LRT) approach and the mixture HWP (mHWP) exact test were proposed for testing HWP in samples from case-control studies. Here, we show that these two approaches result in inflated type I error rates and could lead to the removal from further analysis of potential causal genetic variants associated with the primary disease and/or secondary phenotype when the study of primary disease is frequency-matched on the secondary phenotype. Therefore, we proposed alternative approaches, which extend the LRT and mHWP approaches, for assessing HWP that account for frequency matching. The goal was to maintain more (possible causative) single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the sample for further analysis. Our simulation results showed that both extended approaches could control type I error probabilities. We also applied the proposed approaches to test HWP for SNPs from a genome-wide association study of lung cancer that was frequency-matched on smoking status and found that the proposed approaches can keep more genetic variants for association studies.

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